Federal disaster assistance program to be revamped

Minister says the program needs to consider resilience over simply rebuilding

Federal disaster assistance program to be revamped

Catastrophe & Flood

By Lyle Adriano

Noting how much the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA) program has spent in recent years, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair has called for an overhaul of the program to ensure that it focuses on rebuilding better.

According to Blair, the DFAA spent roughly $7 billion helping provinces recover from major natural disasters in its first 50 years. But the minister also noted that he expects the program to pay another $7 billion to cover for damages incurred in 2021 and 2022 – a period marked by the BC wildfires in summer 2021, flooding in 2021 that damaged large portions of the Lower Mainland and Okanagan Valley, and the effects of post-tropical storm Fiona in 2022.

Blair – who was in BC last week to announce the second advanced payment of more than $550 million for the province to help pay for recovery efforts following the November 2021 flooding – said that the government cannot keep paying out billions of dollars to rebuild after a disaster without trying to mitigate the damage.

“I want those recovery funds tied to new building codes and new planning around how we can build back more resilient communities,” the minister told The Canadian Press.

“Just building it back where it was and how it was prior to these events, when we know that they are occurring with greater frequency and severity, it wouldn’t do much [good] to continue to pay this money out.”

The minister launched a review of the disaster assistance program last year. In fall of 2022, the review panel submitted its report and recommendations to Blair. Blair met with the panel last Friday to discuss the report, The Canadian Press reported. They will present their plan to provincial and territorial emergency preparedness ministers this spring.

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